Let’s talk about the purpose of Jet Skis.
Not the literal purpose, being the “beautiful union of form and function” that allows mankind to glide atop the ocean surface on a carbon fiber dolphin-shaped chariot like some kind of swashbuckling Jesus. No, everyone — even the God of Mischief — knows the awesome practicality of this aquatic feat of engineering.
We want to talk about the metaphorical purpose of Jet Skis and what they might hint at when it comes to the motivations of the mysterious Time Variance Authority on Marvel’s latest series, Loki.
Still with us? Good. Spoilers for episode two of the show are below.
In Loki’s second installment, Tom Hiddleston’s trickster Variant is recruited to hunt a more dangerous version of himself, one who seems intent on mucking up the sacred timeline and giving everyone at the TVA a mountain of paperwork to slog through. Most of the episode sees Loki and Agent Mobius (Owen Wilson) testing out their theories about this timeline-thwarting Loki’s real endgame and how they might catch him before he does something irreversible with all those reset charges he’s been collecting. They end up having a breakthrough when our Loki Variant realizes the future (or past) version of himself is shielding his movements by camping out in time branches doomed to end by way of an apocalypse, meaning he can do anything he wants to the timeline, and the Time Keepers won’t ever know because that branch was always going to implode.
He’s right, of course, but that means Mobius and Loki must now sift through hundreds of naturally occurring disasters to find where this chaos-causing villain is hiding which leads to a fairly revealing chat between the pair over a cup of coffee. That talk starts with, you guessed it … Jet Skis. Loki recalls a water sports magazine he found on Mobius’ desk, asking him why he finds the vehicle so fascinating, which has led us on one of the more bizarre comic-book-inspired easter egg hunts we’ve ever been on.
First, there’s Mobius’ innocent obsession with Jet Skis. He knows the decade they were invented, claims they’re one of the few things in history that haven’t disappointed him, all before admitting he’s never actually ridden one. Loki uses that opening to question Mobius’ devout belief in the Time Keepers and his mission to protect the sacred timeline, despite not knowing where exactly he came from, who created him, and why. Of course, Mobius deflects by posing that same question and cautioning Loki not to think too hard about those kinds of existential conundrums, but we’re dealing with the God of Mischief here. Loki is an ancient, alien being who’s convinced entire civilizations that he is, in fact, a god. Why wouldn’t he question the motives behind a trio of “magical lizards” doing the same?
Mobius may still have undying faith in his overlords, but it’s this conversation with Loki that poses an interesting question: Are the Time-Keepers the real villains here?
There are a few theories working in favor of that narrative twist. First, early in the episode, we see Loki studying the basic history of the TVA and what it is that they do. Eventually, he’s invited on a mission to an ’80s era Renaissance Fair where a Hunter has been taken hostage. While there, Mobius quizzes Loki on the TVA protocol that dictates how they should handle the disrupted time branch, and Loki, rather bluntly, compares what the reset charges do to, well, murder. The TVA likes to say they “prune the timeline” so that it can “heal itself.” Loki accurately paraphrases that definition, explaining it’s just a nice way of saying they “disintegrate everything” in their vicinity. It’s not the only time that the TVA agents seem to callously disregard people and Variants unlucky enough to be trapped in one of these branches. When Mobius’ team heads to a department store about to be destroyed by a hurricane (which also serves as evil Loki’s basecamp), he becomes visibly upset with how rough the Hunters are with the terrified citizens just seeking shelter from the storm. It’s this apathetic attitude and outright disgust of people they see as expendable anomalies or worse, disruptive mistakes of the timeline, that point to a more sinister endgame when it comes to the Time Keepers.
Next is the idea that every agent working at the TVA was created by the Time Keepers. That’s the origin story presented to us in episode one when we meet an office clerk who’s never heard of fish — which makes Loki’s threat to gut him a little less intimidating — and when Mobius reveals he doesn’t really know how old he is because “time works differently” at the TVA. Now it’s certainly plausible that an agency that uses Infinity Stones as paperweights could just will their workforce into being, but fans on Reddit have a different theory. What if Mobius, and every other person working at the TVA, are really Variants who’ve been “wiped”? Technically, we still don’t know what the term “wiping” entails here. Maybe the TVA just erases Variants from the timeline altogether, effectively killing them — which also works to prove our theory that these people are actually the worst. But that’d be pretty wasteful, considering Variants who end up at the TVA are already removed from the timeline to begin with. Why not just wipe their memories and repurpose them as your own paper pushers?
If we were omnipotent overlords, that’s what we’d do. If Mobius was actually just a Variant who’d been wiped, it explains his love of Jet Skis and vintage ’90s soda brands (shoutout to those Josta energy drink cameos!). Maybe his original era was sometime in the ’80s/early ’90s and that’s why he has an affinity for these things, despite never experiencing them in real life?
Lastly, isn’t it incredibly suspect that a man like Mobius, who seems to be one of the agency’s top people, has never actually met the beings he works for? Other than an introductory video narrated by Miss Minutes, we know next to nothing about the Time Keepers and their ultimate plan, and when Loki tries to find out more information in episode two, he’s told those origin stories are “classified.” Mobius has never interacted with the Time Keepers either, something he seems a bit salty over during a meeting with Renslayer, and his explanation as to why — that they’re just too busy untangling the universe’s epilogue so that we can all live in peace and order — also seems suspect. Renslayer seems to be the only person who’s had an audience with these overlords — though we’ve never seen proof of that fact — and she reacts rather oddly when, in the episodes final minutes, the problem-causing future Loki (who may be Lady Loki or may actually be a character named Enchantress from the comics) blows up the timeline. Some fans are theorizing that Renslayer, who has ties to the villainous Kang in the comics, is actually working for him and that the TVA may actually exist in the Quantum Realm — which would nicely tie into future Ant-Man movies and get us hyped for Jonathan Majors’ turn as Marvel’s next big bad.
But even if all these clues end up being red herrings (a very possible outcome considering we’re talking about Marvel here) the original scene that sparked all of these wild theories still feels like a foreshadower of things to come. After bonding over their mutual appreciation of said Jet Skis, Loki leaves Mobius with some earned wisdom to chew on:
“No one bad is ever truly bad, and no one good is ever truly good.”
And that might be the best summation of the Time Keepers that we’ve heard so far.